As a woman I often find myself in front of a clothes-full closet with a pout on my face, sighing, because I have nothing to wear. This isn't because I don't know what I want, but because I know exactly what I don't want. And as full as my closet usually is, sometimes it only has things that I don't want to wear. So I go shopping.
But this isn't a post about shopping. Nor is it about women's closets. It is about opportunities and choices. It is about people who face big urgent decisions and have to take into consideration millions of details before making a choice. And it is especially about the challenge L&D professionals face when they need to select the best LMS for their organization.
I'm not going to tell you which features should adone your perfect LMS. With so many types of organizations, multiplied with so many types of learning needs, I would find myself in front of a rather impossible task. Here is an attempt of tackling this task — it only covers 99 features you could consider when selecting a learning management system.
Instead, I am going to focus on which features you should definitely NOT want in your future LMS [drumrolls for a little suspans...]:
1. You don't want a tangled system
Your learners should focus on the learning content, not on figuring out how to submit an assignment or how to get around a module. A difficult to use LMS comes with frustrations not only for the users, but also for managers, as training administrators becomes a difficult and costly endeavour. If a demo of an LMS is not simple and straightforward in terms of navigation, then probably the entire LMS is overcomplicated and you might want to avoid it.
2. You don't want a stiff design
Seriously, you don't. 1995 feels like it ended a century ago. Facebook is old enough to have a Facebook account. The world has more mobile devices than it has people, and these mobile devices come in all shapes and sizes, aka screen resolutions. Responsive design is the living future and if an LMS is stuck in the "olden days" of set widths and cluttered user interfaces, just back away slowly. Your modern employees deserve better.
3. You don't want uncalled, unnecessary features
Even though the final configuration of your LMS still has quite some time to see the light of day, you should be able to pick and choose the features you will actually need and get rid of those you won't. Unnecessary features only clutter the interface and having to pay for them makes things even worse. Make sure you can opt out of any inessential feature and customize the LMS according to your organization's future requirements.
4. You don't want an insecure system
Go to your vendor's website and check the URL bar for https instead of just http and a lock icon. If you can't find these, they don't have an SSL certificate, which means their website is not a safe place for data transfer, logins or credit card transactions. If they do have an SSL certificate, go on and ask where their servers are located, how often they execute backups, what's the procedure for data recovery in case of data breaches and so on. Internet data security is a serious subject, so you'll need some very serious answers to these questions.
5. You don't want hidden costs
Paying for unnecessary features and extra training for administrators are just the top of the iceberg when it comes to hidden costs. Check that all billable aspects are presented as such because implementation fees, mandatory training, testing and bug fixing or customer support can all be subject to extra payment. Also, keep an eye on the pricing plans, what features these cover and the conditions under which you can upgrade or downgrade.
6. You don't want long-term contracts
Perhaps shaking hands and signing a contract with an LMS vendor is not the same as getting married, but it can be as stressful if, after a short period of time, you realize there are irreconcilable differences between you two and you simply can't get out of that partnership. Long-term contracts with the smallest font size for important clauses are not desirable. A month's notice before ending a contract is reasonable enough. You can start being suspicious about anyone demanding more than that.
7. You don't want a quiet learning management system vendor
What do kids do when they win a spelling bee contest or score the decisive point at a football match? They brag about it. For weeks, maybe. It is human nature to be proud of and share one's achievements. Check out your possible vendor's website and social media accounts for bragging rights. Maybe they got a top spot in some industry report, maybe they won an international award, maybe they have just released a cool new feature — the more accomplishments they list publicly, the better. After all, businesses are made of grown up kids.
And so my list comes to an end. You can now easily recognize seven red flags about LMS vendors. Whenever you notice one or more of these flags, consider looking for what others have to offer.
Getting the perfect LMS requires a lot of research, demos and testing. If you're just starting to look for one, don't panic in front of the overwhelming number of options — there are almost 700 LMS vendors out there, talking big about millions of features. Start by nailing down what you DON'T want from your future LMS and work your way from there. You'll get to it!
If you represent the interests of a small business however, you might want to take a peek at MATRIX' features also. It wasn't announced for nothing as the #1 LMS for Small Businesses in the Top 50 LMS 2016 Rankings Report, written by Craig Weiss, the author of the Elearning 24/7 blog and a well known e-learning industry expert ;)